Houthis abduct Yemeni teachers’ union head over salary demands

Houthis abduct Yemeni teachers’ union head over salary demands
Abu Zaid Al-Kumaim, the leader of the Yemen Teachers Club, was abducted by the Houthis when they stormed his home in Sanaa after he demanded that teachers be paid. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 October 2023
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Houthis abduct Yemeni teachers’ union head over salary demands

Houthis abduct Yemeni teachers’ union head over salary demands
  • Detention of Abu Zaid Al-Kumaim draws outrage from politicians, teachers and journalists

AL-MUKALLA: The Houthi militia in Yemen on Sunday kidnapped the leader of a major teachers’ union amid a crackdown on a growing public movement demanding payment for public employees.

The Yemeni Teachers Club said that armed Houthis in Sanaa encircled the residence of its chairman, Abu Zaid Al-Kumaim, who was later kidnapped.

The club demanded the immediate release of Al-Kumaim and the payment of public worker wages.

“We were disappointed to learn of the club president’s arrest at a time when we were expecting our government to reconsider the issue of the interruption of our salaries as educators and teachers for up to eight years, and work to ensure their regular payment and end our suffering,” the club said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of public employees in Houthi-controlled regions have not been paid since late 2016, when the Houthis ended payments in protest of the Yemeni government’s move of the central bank headquarters from Sanaa to Aden.

The Yemeni government accused the Houthis of looting the bank’s foreign currency reserves to finance military operations.

Public pressure on the Houthis has grown lately following reports that the militia had generated millions of dollars in cash from Hodeidah ports since April 2022 during the UN-brokered truce.

Al-Kumaim infuriated the Houthis by inciting teachers to engage in a months-long strike to coerce the militia into paying out salaries. Before kidnapping the club’s leader, the Houthis replaced striking teachers and school principals with loyalists.

Ismail Al-Jalai, a Yemeni politician in Sanaa who was present during the arrest, said that a group of armed men from Houthi security and intelligence led by Khaled Sharafuddin surrounded Al-Kumaim’s home on Sunday morning before storming inside.

The move prompted a terrified Al-Kumaim to exchange fire with the Houthi raiders, who he mistook for robbers.

Al-Jalai said that Al-Kumaim, who was yelling that he had not committed a crime, surrendered himself to a prosecutor, adding that the Houthis accused him of collusion with the “aggression,” referring to the Arab coalition and the Yemeni government.

According to Al-Jalai, Al-Kumaim’s rejoinder to the assailants was: “My brothers, I want my salary and the teacher’s salaries, and nothing else.”

The arrest of Al-Kumaim has prompted outrage and condemnation from Yemeni politicians, teachers, journalists and the general public, who have demanded that the militia pay public employees and cease persecuting teachers.

“I fully support him, and he is innocent of any allegations brought against him, and seeking teachers’ pay is not a crime,” Nasser Hassan Al-Kumaim, a software engineer in Sanaa, said on his Facebook page.

“We condemn, criticize and hold the authorities in Sanaa totally accountable for his safety and health. We demand that he be released immediately.”

Abdul Rahman Maazeb, a member of the government’s parliament, said that the Houthis took advantage of the Yemeni public’s focus on the conflict in Palestine to abduct Al-Kumaim.

“The common people expected them to go to Palestine to support it, not to Al-Kumaim’s house to detain a teacher demanding his and his colleagues’ salaries,” Maazeb said on the social media platform X.

Some Yemeni commentators, including Mohammed Al-Magaleh, who have long been viewed as Houthi supporters, criticized the Houthi raid and implored Yemeni teachers to pressure the militia to release Al-Kumaim.

“This person defended your rights, so it is disgraceful for you to remain mute about his arrest, which has no legal basis other than his defense of your right to human dignity,” Al-Magaleh said on X.


Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
Updated 6 sec ago
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Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
  • Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria
Beirut: Israel hit a car used by Hezbollah in Syria, close to the Lebanese border, also striking near Damascus Thursday, a war monitor said, hours after similar attacks near the Syrian capital.
“An Israeli drone targeted a car belonging to Hezbollah in the Homs countryside near the Syrian-Lebanese border,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At the same time, “violent explosions resounded after Israeli strikes hit southwest of Damascus,” said the Britain-based monitor with a network of sources inside Syria.
An AFP correspondent in Damascus said they heard faraway explosions.
On Wednesday evening, Israel struck near Damascus, killing two Syrian pro-Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory had said.
Last week, an Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members, also according to the Observatory.
Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces following the eruption of civil war.
Since Syria’s war began in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes against its northern neighbor, primarily targeting pro-Iran forces, among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
But the strikes have multiplied during the almost five-month-old war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.
Syria’s war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.

UN rights chief: war crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: war crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
Updated 47 min 1 sec ago
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UN rights chief: war crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: war crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
  • UN human rights office had recorded ‘many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces’

GENEVA: UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Thursday said war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, calling for them to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable.
“Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties,” Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“It is time — well past time — for peace, investigation and accountability.”
Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages in an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
The attack sparked an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza, which it says is intended to rescue the remaining hostages and eradicate Hamas. Health authorities in Gaza say some 30,000 people have been confirmed killed during the offensive.
Turk, who was presenting a report on the human rights situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said his office had recorded “many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces.”
He said there were also indications that Israeli forces have engaged in “indiscriminate or disproportionate targeting” in violation of international law.
Israel has said it is doing all it can to minimize harm to civilians.
Turk said Palestinian armed groups launching indiscriminate projectiles across southern Israel and the holding of hostages also violated international humanitarian law.
Last month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians, although it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.
Turk said the prospect of an Israeli ground assault in the southern border town of Rafah, where some 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed after fleeing their homes further north to escape Israel’s offensive, “would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new, dystopian, dimension.”
“For my part, I fail to see how such an operation could be consistent with the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice,” he said.
Turk added that such a ground offensive would incur massive loss of life, increase the risk of atrocity crimes, spur more displacement and “sign a death warrant for any hope of effective humanitarian aid.”


Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens

Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens
Updated 23 min 42 sec ago
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Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens

Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens
  • Hospital officials say an apparent Israeli strike on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in Gaza City has killed and wounded dozens

RAFAH: At least 70 people were killed in a strike early Thursday on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in Gaza City, bringing the total number killed since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.
Gaza City and the rest of northern Gaza were the first targets of Israel’s air, sea and ground offensive launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The area has suffered widespread devastation and has been largely isolated from the rest of the territory for months, with little aid entering.
Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza, in part because of the crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys. The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said another 280 people were wounded in Thursday’s strike.
Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, said medics arriving at the scene found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals on donkey carts.
The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.
The Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded. It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government, maintains detailed records of casualties. Its counts from previous wars have largely matched those of the UN, independent experts and even Israel’s own tallies.
The Hamas attack into southern Israel that ignited the war killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the militants seized around 250 hostages. Hamas is still holding around 130 hostages, a quarter of whom are believed to be dead, after releasing most of the others during a weeklong ceasefire in November.


Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit

Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit
Updated 29 February 2024
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Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit

Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit
  • The Iranian state TV said the 110-kilogram satellite has three cameras

MOSCOW: A Russian rocket on Thursday successfully put an Iranian satellite into orbit, a launch that underlined increasingly close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
Russia’s state-run Roscosmos corporation said that a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Vostochny launch facility in the country’s far east to carry the Iranian satellite and 18 Russian satellites into orbit.
The Iranian state TV said the 110-kilogram satellite has three cameras to take images for environmental, agricultural and other purposes.
Iran’s state TV said the satellite will be put into orbit around the North and South Poles, synchronized to be in the same fixed position relative to the Sun, and will be fully functional after a calibration of its systems.
Thursday’s launch comes after Russia put into orbit the Iranian Khayyam satellite in 2022.
Iran’s Communication Minister Isa Zarepour told the TV that Iran’s space program has had a total of 23 launches, including 12 during President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.


HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria

HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria
Updated 29 February 2024
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HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria

HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria
  • HRW: Turkiye ‘bears responsibility for the serious abuses and potential war crimes committed by members of its own forces and local armed groups it supports’ in Syria’s north’

BEIRUT: Turkiye bears responsibility for human rights abuses and violations of land and property rights in swathes of northern Syria it controls alongside its proxies, a Human Rights Watch report said Thursday.
Since 2016, Turkiye has carried out successive ground operations to expel the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from Syria’s north, with its proxies now controlling two large border strips.
Turkiye “bears responsibility for the serious abuses and potential war crimes committed by members of its own forces and local armed groups it supports” in Syria’s north, HRW said in its report.
Turkish officials in Syria’s north have in some cases “been directly involved in apparent war crimes,” with Turkish forces and intelligence agencies involved “in carrying out and overseeing abuses,” the report said.
Abuses and violations are “most often directed at Kurdish civilians and anyone else perceived to have ties to Kurdish-led forces,” HRW said.
Kurdish women detainees have reported sexual violence including rape, while children as young as six months old have been detained with their mothers, the report said.
Ankara views the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that dominate the SDF as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group.
The military police and the myriad rebel factions of the Syrian National Army (SNA), both backed by Ankara, “have arbitrarily arrested and detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured and otherwise ill-treated, and subjected to unfair military trials scores of people with impunity,” HRW said.
A Syrian who formerly lived under SNA rule told HRW: “Everything is by the power of the weapon.”
The rights group has also accused Ankara of having “summarily deported thousands of Syrian refugees” from Turkiye to areas under its control in Syria.
In July 2023 alone, Ankara sent back more than 1,700 Syrians into the Tal Abyad border area, the report said.
Hundreds of thousands of residents in northeast Syria’s Turkish-controlled border strip have been displaced from their homes, with SNA factions looting, pillaging, and seizing their properties, the report said.
“The hardest thing for me was standing in front of my house and not being able to enter it,” a displaced Yazidi man from Ras Al-Ain told HRW.
Turkiye and its proxies “should grant independent investigative bodies immediate and unhindered access to territories under their control,” the rights group said.
Syria’s war has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.